ANU physicists raise $10 million in a Series A for their quantum sensor startup, Nomad Atomics

- July 3, 2023 3 MIN READ
Nomad Atomics cofounders Christian Freier, Kyle Hardman and Paul Wigley
Nomad Atomics cofounders Christian Freier, Kyle Hardman and Paul Wigley
A deep tech startup cofounded by three globally recognised atomic physicists at Australian National University has raised $12 million to develop miniaturised quantum sensors for mining, underground resources and navigation.

The round was led by existing investor Blackbird with support from Right Click Capital. A previous Seed round raised $2 million, with ANU also on the cap table

Nomad Atomics is the result of research by cofounders Kyle Hardman, Paul Wigley and Christian Freier, world leaders in quantum gravimetry/accelerometer programs.

Gravimetry measures the strength of a gravitational field and the best known example of accelerometers is they’re used in smartphone sto monitor the orientation of the device, and adjust the screen.

Their startup, launched in 2020, is working towards the commercialisation of its field-deployable quantum gravimeters and accelerometers. They’ll use the new capital to relocate to Melbourne from Canberra to scale Nomad’s manufacturing and operations.

At ANU, research by the Nomad team focused on critical aspects of building deployable sensors for defence including building multi-field sensors and making robust sensors and supporting infrastructure for navigation systems. It placed the trio at the forefront in deployable quantum systems.

Hardman, CEO of Nomad Atomics, said transitioning quantum technologies from the lab environment to reliable operation in the field is challenging.

“We founded Nomad to address this challenge, by developing robust sensors with reduced size, weight and power requirements to enable real world applications – taking technology that would take up entire rooms in research labs and placing it all in a self-contained 20x20x30cm box to produce the world’s first survey-style absolute gravimeter,” he said.

Nomad has already begun working with major international companies across several markets including mineral exploration, mine monitoring, geodesy, and utilities.

“These markets have huge potential and we have seen a remarkable desire from companies across all sectors to utilise our sensors,” Hardman said.

Wigley, the COO, said they have a huge and ground-breaking job ahead.

“This has never been done, especially not on this timescale. We custom designed and built nearly everything, and because of all that, today we have the most highly integrated, smallest sensor of its type in the world,” he said.

“We truly believe that this new sensing hardware has the potential to change how we view and interact with our world and helping make this available to people outside of physics labs is very exciting.”

The company’s unique quantum sensors will be leveraged to solving the hardest sensing problems in some of the world’s largest industries including resources, energy, defence and space.

Improving sensors has massive revenue potential for the startup with even Nomad’s smallest target market, resource exploration, spending more than  US$1B billion on  for gravity exploration as part of the US$50 billion resource mapping, monitoring and optimisation industry.

Christian Freier, the CTO, explained that: “the devices will allow users to explore for deeper and small mineral deposits, allow for high resolution resource exploration from drones, allow for the more efficient and safe production from our underground mines, reduce the risk of drought by mapping and monitoring the flow and charge of aquifer systems, directly and cost effectively monitor the total mass of sequestered CO2, and increase navigation certainty in GNSS denied scenarios by providing zero drift and zero bias accelerometers.”

The company expects to hire 20+ new roles for its next phase, which will involve scaling its field ready sensor fleet, building two new prototype sensors with focuses on airborne exploration and inertial navigation, and expand into the markets of the future such as CO2 sequestration and navigation.

Blackbird partner Niki Scevak said they’d backed the deep tech startup since its earliest days at ANU.

“Founders Kyle, Christian and Paul are among the best atomic physicists in the world, and the progress they have made on building a working quantum sensor has been nothing short of stunning to witness,” he said.

“Having honed in on a transformative use case that makes underground mining safer, the future is bright for Nomad.”